Closing the door on 2020

Fair warning: I’m going to ramble.

Let’s do some reviewing of 2020, shall we? Of course, there’s a million other pages out there doing that, going on about how Corona affected their lives and their livelihood and such. I’m not going to skip all that entirely, but I’m going to try to keep it a bit closer to home, and a bit more related to booze. Or at least, that’s my intention.

Job

In February last year I started at a new company after my previous endeavor hadn’t gone too well. A pretty happy start to the year, if I might say so. I thoroughly enjoy working at We Are You and hope to do that for many years to come.

In a way, I found my way back since with only a little creative thinking, it’s more or less the company I started my ‘career’ at in 2006. Back then called Lectric, due to some mergers it’s now the same group of companies. Anyway, a very good beginning.

Of course, after almost two months Corona hit and I had to start working from home and have been doing so since. I work closely with quite a few people I’ve never seen in real life, and the ones I have seen in real life I’ve seen for all of 20 minutes or so. Still, things are well.

Music

Normally, I would have written, or am about to write a top 10 of my favorite records of the year. With 9 months of working from home, you’d think I’d have ample time to listen to new music and think about which records I prefer over others.

Strangely, I happen to work in a team that does ‘mob programming‘, so I’m in conference calls about 6 hours per day. When I’m not, I’m just happy to have a bit of silence. So, my ‘to listen’ list is huge at the moment, and I haven’t even kept track of what came out the last couple of months.

However, I can disclose that something very strange must happen for Ian Noe’s ‘Between the Country‘ not to be the number one.

Beer

I just didn’t make it. I hoped to get to 2500 unique beers on Untappd before the end of the year, but ended up at 2463. Of course, no one gives a flying fuck about whether or not I get there, but somehow it crept in my mind and it worked out differently. The missing 37 check-ins could probably have been fixed by Borefst Festival, but that got cancelled due to obvious reasons.

Anyway, I have become a bit more picky in one way, and a bit less picky in another. I’ve become more picky when it comes to just drinking random stuff that comes out. I want beers to be very good, and bring something new to the table. On the other hand, I’ve become a bit less picky about styles. I stopped caring for a lot of the modern hazy IPAs, but have redeveloped an interest in modern day Triples and Doubles. It seems the Belgians have decided it’s finally time to up their game.

Whisky

Of course, the most relevant topic to this here blog.

I’ve had quite a few this year. Not in the least because of all the online tastings, but more on that later.

I honestly can’t say which one was best. I would have to go through 12 months of blog posts and check all scores to see which one I liked most. Also, with me having had a cold since summer until fairly recently, I posted quite some notes I wrote in 2019 or sometimes even in 2018. Should these drams count?

Whisky is, to me, at a bit of a crossroads. On one hand, I’ve found that there is still a lot of gorgeous stuff out there that is relatively affordable. You don’t have to shell out 300+ Euros to find a 90+ points whisky. So, compared to previous years, I think the average cost per bottle has gone down in 2020. At least, the money I spent on a bottle on average.

On the other hand, prices keep soaring. Whereas I previously thought some ceiling had been reached, whisky appears to have broken through. Sometimes very sneakily. By now we have come to expect things to be ridiculously expensive, so even when a whisky comes out that is 30 Euros less expensive than expected, it can sometimes be 30 Euros more expensive than a similar release a year before. So the climb continues.

With this happening it sometimes is very hard to keep the ‘quality over quantity’ adage alive. If you want something exceptionally good, you have to spend several month’s worth of budget on it. And it’s questionable that it is four times as good as a semi-affordable bottle.

From that point of view, whisky sucks.

Bourbon and Rye

From Europe, Bourbon and Rye whisky might even suck more. Logically, most marketing and the largest chunk of their fanbase comes from the United States.

Unfortunately American whisky is much, much more expensive here than it is there. What is considered a solid ‘value for money’ bottle there, might set you back just shy of € 200 here. Looking at you, Old Forester 1920!

“But Scotch is much more expensive there than it is here”, I hear someone say. Yes, but the difference is in the benefit of the USA. Solidly.

Anyway, regardless of this pricing struggle, and a bigger struggle to hit an acceptable price vs quality mark, I’ve become quite enamored by both Bourbon and Rye again. It was quiet for some years, but not anymore.

Even in the online tastings I tend to have at least one Bourbon or one Rye in the line-up. Even though a lot of the participants would have rather had another single malt. Variance is the spice of life.

Tastings

Initially, three tastings had been planned for 2020. The Bad-Ass Tasting, and the Winter Tasting at Whiskyslijterij De Koning, and the annual Blog Barbecue Bash. The latter would have had it’s tenth iteration this year.

Obviously, these events couldn’t happen. The winter tasting was a bummer, but especially the other ones are the ones I regret not happening. Because of that, I didn’t even remember the 10th anniversary of this here blog until it was a week after.

From De Koning, I enjoyed several other tastings instead. From a set of samples, at home. Very different, but still very enjoyable. I also participated in several tastings from Norbert, AKA Whisky4All. Between the two of them, it’s some 30 American whiskies tasted already!

Also, I started organizing the ‘Stay the Fuck Home’ tastings since April or so. There’s eight tastings in the bank already, with another one lined up for January. Even though it’s been a shitload of work to get everything in, then sampled, then delivered or sent, it’s been great fun!

Through these (very) informal tastings I’ve been able to keep in touch with people I normally only see in a whisky context. It also helps that I don’t do these tastings for free and I was able to buy some bottles for these tastings. More new things to explore together with 5 to 11 other people (depending on the event). Thanks to all who participated!

That’s quite enough for this post, don’t you think?

Thanks to everyone who helped shape this year into anything else than a huge pile of steaming shit!

About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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